Attorney General Eric Holder, flanked by FBI Director Robert Mueller, announcing the alleged plot yesterday.(Win McNamee/Getty Images)
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What the Iranian Plot Means

For starters, is it credible?

by
Marc Tracy
October 12, 2011
Attorney General Eric Holder, flanked by FBI Director Robert Mueller, announcing the alleged plot yesterday.(Win McNamee/Getty Images)

There is plenty of fun cloak-and-dagger and goofy stuff for aficionados of that sort of thing in the U.S.’s accusations against Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards for plotting to kill the Saudi and Israeli ambassadors and attack those countries’ embassies in Washington, D.C. One question being sorted out now is: how much should we really believe of the allegations? The Times’s Neil MacFarquhar reports that the whole thing feels uncharacteristic of the Iranian militia, which usually uses proxies like Hezbollah for foreign attacks and is rarely so sloppy. Iran, of course, has denied all involvement, and sent an angry letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon protesting the “warmongering policies of the United States.” Yet both Kenneth Pollack and Eli Lake have persuasive pieces arguing that the attack is in keeping with Iran’s “shadow war” against the U.S., if representing something of an escalation of it. (And recall that it is a two-way war: see Stuxnet.)

Take a step back, though, and you see the following: the utter failure of Iran to launch its audacious attack; a clear example of why U.S.-Israel and Saudi Arabia should be cold allies, something that was tested recently over U.S. opposition to the Palestinian Authority’s U.N. gambit; and the further strengthening of that cold alliance, perhaps, in the form of slowly drawing Hamas away from Iran-Syria. President Obama has known about the plot since June, and so it must have been on Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s mind when he was in Cairo last week, potentially helping to orchestrate the release of Gilad Shalit. All this stuff feels connected. If they are, it means that the administration is jiu-jitsuing Iran’s “warmongering policies” to the U.S.’s advantage.

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.